The full schedule is not yet released, but we now know that the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes will kick off the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday evening at TD Garden. The two teams haven’t faced in a playoff series in a decade, and just the five times overall including two series when the Hurricanes were still known as the Hartford Whalers. In that 2009 series between the two, Carolina defeated Boston in seven games on an overtime winner by Scott Walker. In that deciding seventh contest, Rod Brind’Amour scored Carolina’s first goal, and will now try to defeat them again from behind the Hurricanes’ bench.
Even after walking through the New York Islanders in four games, the Hurricanes have a lot on their plate if they want to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Boston has already dispatched two strong teams in the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and have a goaltender playing some of the best hockey of his career. Tuukka Rask has posted a .938 save percentage through the first 13 games of the postseason, and looks as good as when he led the Bruins within two games of the Stanley Cup in 2013. While Zdeno Chara may be a few years out of his prime, the Boston defense has been excellent overall with huge contributions from Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug. Unfortunately McAvoy will be out tomorrow night as he serves his suspension, giving the Hurricanes a slight advantage to start the series.
If the Hurricanes able to overcome the Bruins, it will likely be on the back of one of the game’s best clutch performers. Carolina captain Justin Williams has long been known as “Mr. Game Seven” around the league for his heroics in do-or-die moments, and lived up to his name by setting up Brock McGinn in double overtime to dispatch the defending champion Washington Capitals in the first round.
Boston though have their own experienced performers, including Patrice Bergeron who continued to play excellent two-way hockey to lead the Bruins through the first two rounds. The four-time Selke winner has just eight points in 13 games, but can never be counted out with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci—three holdovers from the Bruins’ 2011 championship—have 19 playoff game-winning goals between them, including six in overtime.
In a year where seeds haven’t mattered and any playoff team can upset any other, it’s hard to name a clear favorite in the series. Boston will enjoy home ice, but the Hurricanes will try to storm in and take that advantage back right away. Cast your vote below on who you think will win, and comment down below how many games the series will go.
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